June 2009 is a month of firsts for Xconomy. It’s the first anniversary of our Seattle site. It’s the first time we’ve organized a full-day innovation conference, the Xconomy Summit on Innovation, Technology, and Entrepreneurship, coming up on June 24. And, as part of XSITE, it’s the first time we’ve assembled local startups for a series of lightning-speed presentations with audience interaction.
We’re calling it the Xconomy Xpo, and if you’ve bought one of the increasingly scarce tickets for XSITE 2009 at Boston University, you’ll get to take part in it at BU’s School of Management auditorium next Wednesday. The Xpo will feature a dozen Massachusetts companies, each invited specifically because they show great promise to transform their industries, whether it’s through new energy-generating technologies, new ways of diagnosing or treating disease, or new methods of connecting people with information and computing resources. After each group of presentations, we’ll turn to audience members for a live electronic vote on which companies they think will be most transformative.
We selected four pioneering companies from each of New England’s three dominant innovation sectors (energy, life sciences, information technology), and on the pages that follow, we want to set the stage for the Xpo by telling you a bit about each of them. Click the names below to jump straight to each company’s writeup. And if you haven’t signed up for XSITE, register now.
The specifics around CloudSwitch are deliberately hazy. The cloud-computing company, according to its website, is currently in stealth mode, and is looking to develop “an enterprise software product that delivers the power of cloud computing seamlessly and securely.” It snared $7.4 million in a Series A funding round co-led by Atlas Venture and Matrix Partners this past January. CloudSwitch was founded by CEO Ellen Rubin, previously VP of marketing for Malborough, MA-based Netezza, and John Considine, formerly of Pirus Networks.
While most wind turbines resemble long-bladed windmills, the FloDesign model looks more like a jet engine on a stick—which makes sense for a wind power company spun out of an aeronautics manufacturer. FloDesign claims its unique design will outperform standard wind turbines “by a factor of three or more,” and will work in a variety of wind patterns, performing well even in low wind conditions.
The company won a host of accolades in 2008, including the MIT Clean Energy Prize ($200,000) and the Ignite Clean Energy Prize ($100,000), and even caught the attention of Al Gore, who was rumored to be interested in investing (Indeed, Gore’s company, KPCB, did invest). CEO Stan Kowalski (who, to the best of our knowledge, has never appeared in a production of A Streetcar Named Desire) is enthusiastic about applying aerospace technology principles to a variety of areas; FloDesign has ongoing projects in defense and biomedical sectors as well as cleantech.
IST Energy develops small-scale gasification plants that can fit on a truck. A division of InfoSciTex, IST was founded in 2000, based on a request from the army for a way of cutting down on the trash it must haul, especially overseas. IST has worked since then on a way to scale down industrial gasification plants to fit into a standard cargo container that could then fit onto trucks and make mobile gasification plants.
This year IST launched its Green Energy Machine, which turns organic waste such as paper and food into a synthetic gasoline that can then be used as fuel for a generator or furnace. Although the army is expected to be a major customer of the GEM, IST also expects to sell it to institutions and industries looking for a way to get some energy back from the large amount of trash they generate.
This Lexington-based health company emerged from stealth mode last September, and was greeted with an influx of unexpected interest during the recent swine-flu scare. Pulmatrix’s aerosol flu treatment, unlike the “one drug, one bug” vaccines that dominant today, is designed to work against multiple viruses. The compounds in Pulmatrix’s spray are intended to stimulate immune defenses, change the mucous lining of the lungs to make it inhospitable to pathogens, and reduce the likelihood of transmission by changing the properties of the airways so an inhaled pathogen doesn’t form the little droplets that can be sneezed out.
The company is keeping a pretty tight lid on the specifics, but it has announced that the drug was well-tolerated in humans, with no adverse effects, based on Phase I clinical trials. Pulmatrix also says animal tests have shown its treatment to be effective against a number of flu viruses, including swine flu. A tougher human study, with 25 patients, is commencing in July, with results expected in October.